Latitude 2018: Scottish indie-pop veterans Belle and Sebastian head to Suffolk’s Henham Park
PUBLISHED: 10:00 05 April 2018 | UPDATED: 12:41 08 April 2018
Gaelle Beri. Promo/Press only
Latitude has scored another UK festival exclusive, with Belle and Sebastian joining this year’s line-up.
They will play the laying the Obelisk Arena on the Friday night before headliner Solange.
Unique, unpredictable, thoughtful, compelling to watch and fiercely loved, the band’s Sarah Martin remembers their first appearance at Latitude in 2010 well.
“When we were there the festival had just had its first really huge growth spurt, it was exciting. We opened the set with a song of mine - I Didn’t See It Coming off the latest album at that point - which was terrifying enough but my monitor pack wasn’t working. I was singing a second behind the beat because I had to take my ear things out and just sing with the PA.
“All the band were just staring at me as if I were an idiot. Then one of our techs figured out what was happening, chaotically ran on stage and handed me his pack. I was pretty rattled. Nobody knew the song, everybody was very generous about it but when you’re playing absolutely new songs you do actually want them to go well,” she laughs.
The Scottish indie-pop veterans’ performance follows a recent successful world tour and the release of the widely-acclaimed trio of EPs How To Solve Our Human Problems Parts One-Three. They’re regarded as a return to the start for the best newcomer BRIT award winners, who have sold out the Hollywood Bowl and contrbuted to an array of films including Juno and The Power of Nightmares.
“When the group first started we were definitely not able to go away; it was inconceiveable. Stuart (Murdoch) was recovering from a bad period of having ME. I was fresh out of university and a couple of the other folk in the band were still at university; everybody had jobs. The record company would’ve loved us to go on six-month tour of playing anywhere that would have us but we couldn’t. We couldn’t go away to record.
“I don’t think it really occured to us. We were just biting off the little mouthfuls we could chew at any one time. I think the EPs sprung from a similar thing. Stuart hadn’t been well again, a few folk have had kids; for some it felt really too daunting to actually try to get an album’s worth of stuff together and then go away somewhere.
“(It seemed easier) to just take a song at a time, take a day, a week or whatever at a time and just go into a studio and come out with something that didn’t exist that morning. It’s really exhillerating, that’s the thing I love most in the world, turning nothing into something; starting with a little phrase in your head and at the end of the day you’ve got a few bits of a song or something.”
Sarah, who’s spent half her life with Belle and Sebastian, finds it liberating to not have to rely on having an album’s worth of material and everybody lined up all in one go. It’s harder in a way though she laughs.
“When you go somewhere and the thing you’re there to do for that month or two is go to the studio then that’s what you do and everybody focuses. When you’re at home it’s bit more difficult to get everybody in the same place and focused but it was a good thing to do. I love the almost monastic thing were you go away somewhere and you just live and breath the songs and really don’t do anything else - but I don’t have a wife and children to be annoyed.”
Earning praise and awards pretty much straight out the gate when they formed in the mid 1990s, Sarah says whether they’re successful or not now isn’t, in a way, up to them. Band members have come and gone, altering the dynamic every time and helping things remain fresh. They’re all stretching out as people, developing new interests outside of Belle and Sebastian.
“We’re all growing up, becoming proper adults. There’s always new stuff coming in. I think we’re a better band than we’ve ever been in purely technical terms. When we first started the songs were the thing. It was touch and go whether we could actually get through a gig or not,” she laughs.
“But the actual ideas were what people loved and I don’t think that’s really changed that much. The songs still spin from this generosity. I think that (letting go of everything and focusing on the music and the performance) is all we really ever do to be honest. There was a little period that we occassionally look back on and go ‘wow, that was like being a band’, working on records in LA and stuff like that.”
Belle and Sebastian’s first appearance at Latitude was their first UK gig in almost four years at the time, performing for some 30,000 people. You can expect something just as special this time around.
“For festivals we do tend to get in the full-on party spirit. People find a way to get suggestions to us and we’ll take requests if anybody has strong feelings that’s there something appropriate for Latitude. We’re definitely looking forward to being back.”
Latitude Festival returns to Henham Park, near Southwold, Suffolk, July 12-15. Other acts include The Killers, Alt J, Jon Hopkins, The Vaccines, Wolf Alice and Idles.